What defenses do I have for not paying rent?
The suspension of evictions through a Declaration does not suspend your obligation to pay rent. Contact your local Department of Social Services if you need help paying rent.
You are protected from eviction for failing to pay rent that came due starting March 7, 2020 if you suffered a financial hardship. To receive the protections, you must raise in court that you are suffering from financial hardship.
If the court finds that you had a financial hardship due to COVID-19, the landlord will not be allowed to evict you for the rent that was owed due to your hardship. However, the court can issue a money judgment against you for that rent.
The court will look at the following factors to determine whether you had a financial hardship due to COVID-19:
- your income prior to the COVID-19 covered period;
- your income during the COVID-19 covered period;
- your liquid assets; and
- your eligibility for and receipt of cash assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance program, supplemental security income, the New York State disability program, the home energy assistance program, or unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law.
Come to court with documents (paystubs, unemployment benefit statements, bank account statements, etc) that show you had a financial hardship due to COVID-19.
If you filled out a hardship declaration based on financial hardship, there is a rebuttable presumption that you meet the criteria above for experiencing a financial hardship.
You can now apply your security deposit to any arrears or future rent. If you are eligible for unemployment insurance/benefits or are affected financially due to COVID-19, your landlord must accept your request to apply your security deposit to rent. Other tenants can still agree with their landlords to apply their security deposit to rent but the landlord does not have to allow it. However, your landlord cannot force you to use your security deposit for rent if you do not want to do so.
You will need to pay back the security deposit over a period of 12 months, starting 90 days after you apply the security deposit towards the rent. For instance, if your security deposit is $1,200, you would need to pay $100 per month for 12 months starting 90 days after you used your security deposit for rent. You can choose to use a security deposit insurance policy instead of repaying the security deposit.
Your landlord cannot charge you a late fee or other fee if you are late in paying rent from March 20, 2020. This protection has been extended by Executive Order and may end at some point in the future.
For all other times, your landlord can only charge a late or other fee if it is allowed by your lease. Even if your lease allows for late fees, your landlord can only charge $50 or 5% of your rent, whichever is less.
You cannot be evicted for failing to pay a late or other fee.
New York State laws make it illegal for landlords to engage in any action that is intended to force tenants to leave their homes or otherwise give up their rights under law. This means that your landlord is prohibited from interfering with your privacy, comfort and quiet enjoyment of your home.
For example, your landlord may not persistently call you at all hours of the day or night asking you for the rent or suggesting that you must move out because you are behind in the rent. Your landlord may also not engage in disruptive construction or renovation projects in your building that interfere with your health and safety and use of your apartment. These actions could be considered harassment.
You can call 911 if your landlord threatens you, forcibly removes you from your apartment, or locks you out. You may also be able to obtain an Order of Protection against your landlord. You can find information about how to obtain an Order of Protection from the New York State Unified Court System. Please call the court at (833) 503-0447 to get more information and to confirm whether the court will allow you to file an application for an Order of Protection.
In New York City, the New York City Tenant Protection Act also provides additional strong anti-harassment protections. If you believe your landlord has engaged in harassment, you can contact 311 or the Right to Counsel hotline at 718-557-1379